If you're just coming here for the first time, uh... you're late. The site is no longer updated daily (see HERE for the story). But it's still kicking 1-2x a week, and it's better late than never! Before reading any of the "reviews", you should read the intro, the FAQ, the MOVIES I HAVE ALREADY SEEN list, and if you want, the glossary of genre terms and "What is Horror?", which explains some of the "that's not horror!" entries. And to keep things clean, all off topic posts are re-dated to be in JANUARY 2007 (which was before I began doing this little project) once they have 'expired' (i.e. are 10 days old).

Due to many people commenting "I have to see this movie!" after a review, I have decided to add Amazon links within the reviews (they are located at the bottom), as well as a few links to the Horror Movie A Day Store around the page, hopefully non-obstructively. Amazon will also automatically link things they find relevant, so there might be a few random links in a review as well. If they become annoying, I'll remove the functionality. Right now I'm just kind of amused what they come up with (for example, they highlighted 'a horror movie' in the middle of one review and it links to, of all things, the 50 Chilling Movies Budget Pack!!!).

Last but not least, some reviews contain spoilers (NOTE - With a few exceptions, anything written on the back of the DVD or that occurs less than halfway through the movie I do NOT consider a spoiler). I will be adding 'spoiler alerts' for these reviews as I go through and re-do the older reviews (longtime readers may notice that there is now a 'show more' which cleaned up the main page, as well as listing the source of the movie I watched, i.e. Theaters, DVD, TV) to reflect the new format. This is time consuming, so bear with me.

Thanks for coming by and be sure to leave comments, play nice, and as always, watch Cathy's Curse.


The Brood (1979)

OCTOBER 7, 2015


Since I've been MIA at home for the past 2 weeks due to late work shifts, I don't think my wife was too pleased when I got out of work a bit earlier than expected and opted to go to a screening tonight. But at least I had irony in my corner, because the movie was The Brood, about a couple with far bigger problems than not getting to see each other all that much during the horror-heavy month of October - but that didn't stop me from wondering if she was mad enough at me to manifest little dwarf killers in raincoats that would kill me during the movie. And that would be tragic, because it's my favorite David Cronenberg film and I had never seen it on 35mm before - I'd have to politely ask the dwarfs to wait until the movie was done to cave my head in with a mallet.

There are many reasons why it stands above his others for me (though only a bit over The Fly, with Rabid coming in 3rd if you must know), such as the more sympathetic and relatable male hero than he usually offers (runner up is probably Dead Zone - and saying you identify with Christopher Walken just makes me uncomfortable) and the fact that it approaches killer kid movie territory. But as this was the first time I had been able to see the film again since I started Horror Movie A Day*, there were a lot of other things I appreciated that I didn't in the past. For starters, I never noticed that Oliver Reed is one of the few people in the movie who DOESN'T grab a drink at the drop of a hat - I delighted in his drunkenness over and over again on this site, so that was particularly amusing to me. The grandmother in particular was downing brandy (?) like water, but as far as I could tell, Reed's character never once indulged. Likewise, I hadn't seen Don't Look Now before, so now that little visual reference for the film's pint-sized killers wasn't lost on me.

I also now have a further appreciation for genre movies that don't stick to the usual cliches; watching hundreds of movies that adhered (some quite militantly) the usual tropes helps make The Brood's surprises all the more satisfying. Again with Reed (spoilers ahead), when we meet him he seems to be the usual shady doctor who will stop at nothing to finish his research, prove his theory, etc - but ultimately he proves to be a pretty good guy, once he learns that his methods have resulted in the death of an innocent young woman. Hell, he even goes above and beyond to help our hero (Art Hindle from Black Christmas), as he could have easily taken the "easier" job of talking to the wife but instead opts to go into certain danger to help Hindle rescue his daughter. That's the sort of thing that makes me love the movie - it's not opting for some mind-blowing twist, but merely having people act like human beings instead of caricatures.

And I love how it kind of starts in progress ("in media res" I guess is the term), with the wife already deep into her strange therapy, the kid already showing signs of abuse, etc. It's almost like they skipped the first reel and got into it, which is doubly sweet when you consider that Cronenberg dishes out information at a nearly perfect rate, constantly peeling back the layers of what's really going on without ever really spelling it out (well, Reed kind of does in his final confrontation with Hindle, but it's like a sum-up, not a long bout of exposition). It's all very natural - since the failed marriage, the therapy sessions, etc. have all been going on, there's no reason anyone should be explaining everything in detail, because it would be for the audience's sake, not the characters. Even when the police get involved after the grandmother's death, Cronenberg doesn't make us suffer through three straight minutes of Hindle explaining the situation to them, as we've already garnered that information ourselves. It's quite refreshing, and again, this is something that seeing about 2,000 not-great horror movies since my last viewing of The Brood really helped me appreciate.

Speaking of the cops, these guys are amazing. Seeing a movie with a crowd is always a good way to pick up on some rather silly things that might not have registered at home by yourself, such as the fact that the cops apparently didn't find the murderous little mutant in the house because they "weren't looking for anything that small". I mean, if it was the size of a rat, sure, but I don't care if you're looking for Andre the Giant in a house - how do you miss a 3 foot tall human(oid)? And the bloody handprints it leaves at the murder scene was another thing that didn't register last time, because there's this extended closeup of them (and now they're like as tall as me on the silver screen), and yet again, they were apparently looking for an adult (this one's in the IMDb goofs as a plot hole; I think it's more just sloppy policework but whatever). It could have even been another bit of evidence to prove they weren't human, like the no belly button thing, but Cronenberg just drops it. That said, I also appreciate that neither Hindle or the daughter are considered suspects despite being tied to several murders. We in the audience know they're not the culprits, so why waste time on such drivel?

Oh, and I love that Hindle shuts the TV off in the police station's break room. There are like 5 other cops in there watching, ya jerk.

Also, and I didn't need a post-HMAD refresher to appreciate this, the climax is so goddamn good. I mean, how many horror flicks have you seen where the tension comes from whether or not a guy can keep his wife from yelling at him? There's one amazing bit where she gets a bit perturbed, and they cut to Reed jerking his head to the side as if suddenly aware of impending danger, and it's like one of the best jump scares ever even though the actual antagonists aren't even on-screen. Seeing him make his way around their cabin, inter-cut with the increasingly heated conversation downstairs (if she gets too worked up, the little mutants will follow suit), is excruciatingly suspenseful, as is the unnerving bit where two of the kids approach the teacher in the classroom in front of all the other children.

I made a joke tweet on the way out of the theater that I wished the guy who made The Brood hadn't retired, a not too subtle (or even original) jab at Cronenberg's seeming lack of interest in making anything full blown horror again. But sitting in traffic on the drive home I thought about it more and realized it's probably for the best now, because it's been too long - any return he makes will likely be disappointing due to overly inflated expectations. He made a few masterpieces before switching gears, and it's not like he's making PG-13 rom-coms (though that would be preferable to Cosmopolis, Jesus Christ) - plus he's still far more active than his 70s/80s peers. I guess that's better than trying to recapture his glory days, but then again, there's no one like him and thus he shouldn't really be held to the same standards, right? And how bad could it be? Come on, man... just ONE more like your 70s movies and I'll stop bugging you.

What say you?

P.S. The film is being released on Criterion next week, which may translate into one of my very, very rare purchases from the overpriced company. I've linked it below; can one of you rich folks and/or Criterion snobs pick it up and let me know if it's actually worth twice the cost of every other Blu-ray that's available? Thanks.

*Technically this should be a "Non-Canon Review", but that was something I used to differentiate between those bonus reviews and the regular day's entry back when this was a daily updated site. Now that I'm "retired" it didn't make much sense to distinguish. Just be happy you're getting a new review, you bastards!


Gravy (2015)

OCTOBER 1, 2015


Do you need to laugh out loud on the regular in order to consider a comedy successful? When I think of great horror-comedies, I remember laughing out loud pretty often at them, and can recall specific jokes that had me howling (Slither's "martians are from Mars" argument; Zombieland's "...Garfield.", etc), but I couldn't tell you any similar moments from Gravy and I just watched it. I know I definitely DID belly laugh a few times, but at what I can't recall - yet I know I had this smirk/grin thing on my face the entire time, and was even kind of charmed by it more often than not. So is it a win?

I know this much - it's got a pretty great cast for a movie about cannibals. There's pretty much only one location, a Mexican restaurant that is just about closed for the night (Halloween night, specifically) when a trio of cannibals show up, seal all the doors (there are no windows) and tie up the remaining staff, forcing them to play games in order to earn their way out of being eaten next. That could very easily be a straight, very dark/violent horror movie, but all you have to do is look at the cast and know that won't be the case. Michael Weston and Jimmi Simpson are both ace scene-stealers, and I've enjoyed seeing them pop up in a variety of things for years - so seeing them as the leads (and as brothers!) was a real delight. Both have a very particular on-screen persona and line delivery that is very much in tune with my own sensibilities, so again even though they weren't really earning any big guffaws I was happily watching them carry out their very laid-back plan.

Their victims are also a wonderfully eclectic group, including the great Paul Rodriguez as the owner and Gabourey Sidibe as the restaurant's security guard (why a little Mexican joint would need a security guard is beyond me but she was a delight so no arguments). Horror fans will be happy to discover Molly Ephraim from the Paranormal Activities (she's the daughter in PA2 that pops up to give exposition in The Marked Ones) has some pretty good comedic timing as the obligatory self-centered waitress, and it took 40 minutes before I finally recognized the heroine - she's Sutton Foster from Flight of the Conchords! If you've never watched that show, go to Youtube right now and watch the video for "If You're Into It" - it's how I was hooked (and she's in that particular sequence for an added bonus). Sarah Silverman also pops up in the movie's bookending scenes, so she doesn't get to join in on all the cannibal fun, but her character is wonderfully weird, on-screen for exactly as long as she can be and still be endearing instead of annoying.

The specifics also scream comedy instead of hardcore horror. The cannibals don't just show up and start eating people - they're foodies, and task the restaurant's chef with preparing the meat in a variety of exquisite dishes. And while they pit the employees against each other, it's not like some Saw shit where they give them a weapon and make them battle it out - instead they make them play the Kevin Bacon game (Oh wait, that was one of the things I laughed out loud at! Simpson says "It's a game *I* like to call Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" and someone points out that everyone calls it that). Irreverence is the order of the day here, but don't worry - they don't hold back when it comes to the red stuff. When _____ won't shut up the 3rd cannibal (Lily Cole) settles things by biting his/her throat and chewing out the vocal chords, spraying gallons of real fake blood all over the place. It doesn't kill the person, however (leading to a fun little moment where he/she tries to play the Bacon game), and later when they DO expire their body is placed in a tableau that's so macabre you half-expect Hugh Dancy and Laurence Fishburne to show up and investigate it.

Speaking of expectations, given the number of movie references and writer/director James Roday's self-confessed love of horror (he even did a Friday the 13th episode on his show Psych, information that would have been nice to know when he showed up in the first, lesser Friday the 13th documentary), not to mention the Halloween setting, I was afraid the movie would be wall-to-wall horror references, but there are almost none! Haddonfield is mentioned, and there might have been one or two others during the Kevin Bacon game parts, but otherwise the stuff they reference isn't genre-related, thankfully (and Haddonfield is the only name reference I can recall - the restaurant isn't named "Romero's" or anything obnoxious like that).

As it continues there are some minor twists; one of the employees is a killer himself, minor romances blossom, etc. It's a touch too long (and my appreciation of Simpson and Weston's chemistry started wearing thin in the 3rd act, particularly a conversation about Weston's possible attraction to Foster), but Roday plays against expectations often enough that it's not really an issue, and even though it's a comedy he doesn't feel the need to keep things cheery - there aren't a lot of people left standing by the end. One character is sadly killed too early, but I get it - it lets you know up front that this isn't going to skip on the horror part of the "horror comedy" equation. I wouldn't want to see any of them go that soon, actually - everyone's pretty charming, and I loved how they all seemed to really care about each other. When Rodriguez suspects it's just a robbery, he tells them that only he knows the code so they might as well let everyone else go, and nearly everyone lies instantly, saying they know the code too, thus sparing him (so they hope) from a certain death. It's rather sweet - not a thing I can say about even regular comedies these days, let alone ones about cannibals.

The disc has a few extras, though they're fairly skippable. There's a commentary with Roday, Foster, and Simpson, and while group commentaries for this sort of thing tend to be pretty lively and hilarious, the track is in some serious need of Red Bull. There are a few fun anecdotes and bits of trivia, like the trouble they had securing rights to a folksy children's song that was in the script because the artist wasn't sure if she wanted her kids' song in an R rated cannibal movie, but it's also loaded with long pauses, and there isn't as much banter as I'd expect/want from such a thing. An interview with the trio was seemingly recorded in the same session, so even though it's edited down it still has some dead pauses and subdued interactions; the EPK making of is a bit better but it's also an EPK - it's hardly essential entertainment.

The film is getting a limited release theatrically on Friday (today by the time this posts) before its Blu-ray release on Tuesday, a strategy that may make sense to some folks but I am certainly not among them. I'm all for the theatrical experience and love that it's technically not going to be direct to DVD, but I also know that even if I told you it was the best movie of the year and you HAD to see it in theaters, there would be less than a dozen people there, and instead of a good crowd experience you will likely feel kind of awkward, all scattered around a big theater - it will actually hamper your enjoyment. So wait a few days for the disc, order up some tacos, and invite a few friends over instead. You'll have more fun, I guarantee it.

What say you?


Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)

SEPTEMBER 25, 2015


I shrugged off the original Hotel Transylvania, finding most of the humor to be beneath me (lots of fart jokes) and the narrative not taking advantage of the setting and its characters (as the title suggests, a hotel in Transylvania, owned and frequented by monsters). Knowing it was for kids I didn't care much, though the same season offered the superior Paranorman and Frankenweenie, proving that there was a way to make a solid film for kids that adults could enjoy, so over time I just kind of forgot about it. So when I say that I saw Hotel Transylvania 2 on opening night, I want to stress that it wasn't out of undying excitement for it - merely a matter of scheduling, as my Saturday was busy and I was on baby duty Sunday night - and there was no way I'd go see a kid's movie during the day. So an 8:45 Friday night option made the most sense, as it would likely be kind of empty save for the other curious adults*, right?

Alas. I barely even got a seat, and sure enough it was pretty packed with noisy kids up way later than I ever got to stay up on a Friday when I was their age (let alone go to the movies). Now that I'm a dad I've gotten less intolerant of the little brats talking during the movie, though I still can't condone seat-kicking. Thankfully, a few seats to my right remained empty (I know they were sold due to the seat-picking screen, so I hope they were some kids buying for this and going to see Green Inferno) and I was able to mostly focus on the film - which I am happy to say is a big improvement on the original. I know it's hip to hate on Adam Sandler these days, but I credit him and frequent collaborator Allen Covert for the increase in quality - it's the same director, same co-writer (Robert Smigel, an SNL vet who otherwise has never written a film with Sandler, or at least credited as such), etc - so who else can we thank for getting it right this time, since Sandler didn't get writing credit on the first and Covert only supplied a couple voices?

For starters, they give the other monsters more to do. The plot concerns Dracula's grandson, who is the spawn of his vampire daughter (Selena Gomez) and her human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg, surprisingly given almost no funny lines - though his dad is Nick Offerman so that more than makes up for it) and thus no one knows if he'll be human or a vampire. Dracula, obviously, wants him to be a vampire, and thus him and his pals (Wolfman, "Frankenstein" (grr), Mummy, Invisible Man, a green blob thing) go out on an adventure to try to bring out his monster side. So the others get a chance to do something on their own - Frankenstein will show him how to scare people, Mummy will show him how to inflict curses, etc. They all go horribly wrong, of course, but at least they are actually embracing what these characters are this time instead of just using them for fart gags.

They also take some shots at modern day "Everyone's a winner!" hand-holding, when Dracula takes the tyke to the camp where he learned the ropes of being a vampire - flying, catching rats, etc. There he is horrified to see that the little vampire children no longer hunt rats but merely pick them up off a T-ball post, and learn to "fly" by jumping off a 2 foot high ledge onto a safety net (with a harness), instead of diving off the 1000 foot high rickety tower as he did. Hell they could have used this as the focus for the entire movie and made the message "Stop babying your kids" instead of "It's OK if you're _____ (gay, weird, a vampire, whatever you want to plug in) because your family will love you anyway", but I appreciated the detour. There are also some good background gags for adults, something that I don't recall being in the original (favorite: an ad for a tour that will take you to all the best mythical locales: The Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, and Detroit). There's even a Count Chocula reference!

And as a new dad (SORRY) I got a kick out of the earlier stuff, before the kid gets older (he's 5 for most of the movie, but we track him from birth to his first words and all that). Baby-proofing the castle was particularly fun, with one of those impossible baby gates being placed in front of what seems like a bottomless pit - it's not exactly genius comedy, but again - it was using the idea that these things are in fact monsters for more than just an inventive set design and color scheme. It even has a villain of sorts, a demon named Bela who terrorizes the kid and Drac's daughter Mavis during the finale, with all the monsters (and Johnny's human relatives) banding together to fight them off. It's not exactly scary, and Bela should have been introduced earlier, but it's still more in line with the finale I'd want from a movie about monsters than a rom-com-y race to the airport like the original.

Oh, and they toned down the fart/poop/etc jokes. There are a couple, and the kids ate up one of the demons being hit in the groin, but I go in expecting that sort of shit and I don't really care. It's not the focus - that's what's important, and while his other movies of late leave much to be desired I must laud Sandler for giving a little something for everyone this time around while also diving head first into the concept this time. Indeed, my biggest complaint about the original was that it seemed like a long set up for something better later, and here we are! I can't forgive them for not bringing back the weird sponge thing from the first movie though; they should have made him a primary character.

Don't get me wrong, if you downright HATED the first there's little here to change your mind, but if you're like me, who thought the first movie was infinitely better on paper than in execution, you will probably agree they got a lot closer to getting it right this time, and if you're a parent taking your kids to see it, I think you'll find yourself enjoying it to a degree. I mean I was by myself and really only going to get a new review up, and I was still laughing fairly frequently and not at all embarrassed to be there. When Will is old enough in a couple years, I won't dread him watching this one.

What say you?

*Even though it was almost entirely kids and their parents, my assigned seat was between a couple of college kids and another adult (she looked a few years younger than me) who was also by herself - and believe me if I was single I definitely would have chatted up the like-minded woman who would go to a movie by herself on a Friday night just to enjoy some monster jokes. But anyway - I like that us "old people" all had the same idea, to sit near the front and hope for the best. You know how they offer "Mommy & Me" screenings? They should do the opposite for kids' movies, have special adults only ones for us weirdos.


Goodnight Mommy (2014)

SEPTEMBER 13, 2015


I have been hearing great things about Goodnight Mommy (German: Ich Seh, Ich Seh, or "I see, I see") for about a year now thanks to festival appearances, but so far I had successfully avoided knowing anything about its narrative - I didn't read any reviews, watch the trailer, etc. I didn't even know what kind of movie it was until Sam Zimmerman said a few words about it in his intro for a piece about Bloody Birthday, and while I was kind of bummed to blow my total ignorance so close to seeing it (like, 3 days - after a YEAR of avoiding any details!), it just got me more excited about it. I didn't put the sub-genre tag in the review in case you're just as blind (or even if you've only seen the trailer, which kind of brilliantly teases a different kind of film), but technically it wouldn't really count as a _____ movie anyway - in fact it's kinda got its foot in a couple of doors.

But whatever label you want to throw at it, I think we can all agree this is a very good suspense flick; the sort of thing you might only watch the one time but will be kind of knocked out by it. There are pretty much only three people in the movie: a mother and her twin sons (other characters pop up briefly, such as a deliveryman, but none more than a few minutes), and watching their fractured family unit crumble over the course of the 90ish runtime is the main draw - I suspect the movie won't inspire a lot of repeat business beyond appreciating the performances. The basic plot is about how the two young boys start to suspect that their mother is not really their mother (her face is covered in bandages after an operation), and the depths they go to in order to prove they are right. Susanne Wuest as the mother has an extremely tough role, as she has to stay a bit aloof in order for the film's central mystery to work, but can't do anything that would be construed as a "cheat" once you have all of the information about her character. So she has to be sympathetic and potentially evil in equal measures, without ever doing anything that would tip her too far in one direction - almost until the very last minute of the movie.

And like The Visit, the movie focuses on two child actors who thankfully aren't annoying (before you argue, the rapping kid in Visit was a good actor with an annoying trait - that's not the same thing), with a story that works best if you keep in mind that it's two young minds shaping the action. Some of their decisions are silly (others terrifying), and none of them should have an adult in the audience saying "What *I* would do is...". Of course you'd do whatever seemingly intelligent thing came to your mind - you're an adult. These are just frightened, lonely kids, so super-gluing someone's lips shut without realizing that they'd have to feed her later is totally within the logic that such young minds would possess. I had a bit of trouble telling the two apart (kind of the point in some scenes, I think), but they're pretty great, and even when things get dark you can see their childish enthusiasm shining through - making it far more disturbing.

One thing kind of kept me at bay though, and while I won't explicitly say it, I'll talk around it and it will probably be obvious what I'm talking about, if not right now then pretty much as soon as the movie starts. So skip the next paragraph if you're not into vague spoilers!

So the movie has a kinda twist to it that I spotted pretty early on; it's one you've seen in other movies that is usually a bit harder to see coming, and some have suggested that the filmmakers aren't even trying to hide it from you. Which I could believe, but A. I've ALSO seen movies where this was the case and they made sure to flat out say it after like 40 minutes to make sure everyone was on the same page, and this movie lacks that moment. And B. if it WAS supposed to be obvious, what purpose would that serve? There isn't any narrative benefit to knowing it like 10 minutes in (as I did), and it kept distracting away from certain scenes because I couldn't help but wonder how things were being seen through another character's eyes, and also I kept looking for holes in my own theory, hoping I was wrong (I know that's hard to follow if you haven't seen the movie or don't know the twist, but believe me it tracks!). Like, it seemed SO obvious to me that I thought they were trying to make you think that just to throw you for a loop later, but that's not how it plays out - and it kind of killed part of the fun for me. If you've never seen a movie with this particular idea before, I'm sure you'll miss it entirely - the filmmakers can't possibly be assuming the general audience has seen a dozen of them. Once the movie confirmed my suspicions (in the final 5 minutes) I was denied what should have been a fun little "How did I MISS that?" moment of replaying scenes in my head. Instead I was just happy that they finally caught up.

Thus, for me, the main question was "is the mom really the mom, or an impostor?", which I thankfully didn't know either way until the very end. The movie is thankfully vague enough that either answer would be satisfying, though - not spoiling it either way - if she WAS really their mom, it's hard to garner a lot of sympathy for her for quite some time (even after they start getting more direct with their interrogation) because we're seeing everything through the boys' eyes. You could possibly shoot this entire movie again from her perspective and make it an entirely different kind of horror experience. Also, they repeatedly use Brahm's Lullaby throughout the movie (which is in German, by the way), which was funny to me because it's the rare time the lyrics are used (usually it's just the melody), and I have my own lyrics I use to get my son to sleep that I've been singing for so long that I had kind of forgotten the real (admittedly better) ones.

Like many a festival favorite, I suspect some of the "blown away" type raves were due to people being able to sit down without having any idea of what they were about to see (and also possibly being one of 4-5 movies seen in a single day, with the others being average). It's a slow burn film (the idea that the mom may not be the mom doesn't even gel until around the halfway point) centered on a plot device that's been employed in any number of horror movies (including some with twins), so until the 3rd act there really isn't anything novel to it. It's a really good film, don't get me wrong - but don't be surprised if you'll walk out wishing you had been the first to see it.

What say you?


The Visit (2015)

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015


I will defend M. Night Shyamalan as a director to the death. As a screenwriter he... is imperfect, to put it nicely, but even his worst movies (Lady in the Water) display a great visual sense, careful editing, and actors giving solid performances (a bad director can make a good actor look otherwise - see: Phantom Menace). So it's no surprise that, like Barry Levinson with The Bay and Bobcat Goldthwait with Willow Creek, he has managed to rise above the trappings of most found footage/"documentary" horror films, due to actually knowing how to make a film and understand that the POV aesthetic is just another tool at his disposal. The Visit isn't Night's best film or anything, but it's one of the best of its type in ages, and should help cement a minor comeback for the once untouchable filmmaker.

And that was a relief, because I've been seeing the trailer for months and every time, certain moments got a big reaction from the crowd (with such dire releases as of late, it'd be more engaged than they ever got with the feature they were seeing). The grandfather sticking the gun in his mouth ("I was just cleaning it!") and the girl getting into the oven were always the big ones, and thus it seemed Night finally had a hit on his hands - it would have been a bummer if the movie didn't deliver. But with the pretty full crowd I saw it with, those moments and several others played just as expected, with one jump scare even startling me a bit, and another, more icky moment (for those who have seen the movie, the "You have a problem with germs, right?" part) had them all reacting as they should. I was actually just talking to someone the other day about how horror-comedies should be a bigger/more popular sub-genre, because if they're working right the audience will be laughing AND screaming. This one delivers that AND collective audience disgust (in that one isolated moment) as a bonus!

But I wouldn't call it a comedy/horror, as it's listed on IMDb. Night said he actually had a cut of the movie that was straight up comedy, and I'd be very curious to see how that would work. Sure, there are funny moments, and like 90% of these movies the first 10-15 minutes are loaded with "look how wacky these people are with their camera!" stuff, a tradition that goes back at least as far as Blair Witch (Heather goofing off with marshmallows comes to mind), but it's still a horror movie about two kids who are trapped with their increasingly strange grandparents. Their various health issues (discontinence for Pop Pop, sundowning for Nana, and dementia for both) are scary and SAD, not really funny (well, Pop Pop's discontinence is the butt of a few jokes, and yes that pun is intended), and yes, there is a body count (all off-screen, but still). Maybe it's a comedy compared to Night's other movies (The Happening notwithstanding) but the terror is always real - the humor all stems from reactions and intentional tension breakers - that's not a comedy, to me.

And now that I've compared it to Night's other films, I guess we have to talk about "the twist". I will not reveal it explicitly, but will talk around it, so skip the next paragraph if you want to go in more blind.

Ultimately we learn what Nana and Pop Pop are really all about, and I wrestle with the idea of even calling it a twist - it's more of the reveal at the end of the 2nd act that prompts what happens in the 3rd (it's not like Bruce Willis realized he was a ghost with 30 minutes left of Sixth Sense). Like a good twist, it might make you want to watch the movie a 2nd time, but only to double check that it never became impossible to work (as opposed to just spotting the clues you missed), so again it's not really a big "holy shit" moment. It's also not even that hard to figure out; I called it about 20 minutes before we are told, and that's without me even putting together one of the major clues until a few hours after I saw it. But I loved that Night seemed to be making fun of himself a little and setting the audience up for something more extreme than what it is, as Nana tells a very odd story about fish people (or something?) that I would be willing to bet was his way of acknowledging some of his past work while also trying to mislead us. It's an M NIGHT SHYAMALAN movie after all - aliens or monsters or ghosts or whatever the hell have to be involved, right? Even if you're smart enough to know that Nana's story can't be suggesting the actual answer, you're probably going to start thinking more along those lines than you already did when you saw his name in the credits, making the actual answer all the more satisfying. It certainly worked on one younger guy coming out of the film with his girlfriend, who told her that "Usually his twists are so fucking stupid!" after saying how much he enjoyed this one. Plus he doesn't dwell on it; we learn what it is and that's that - there's no one coming in to explain the entire backstory. You can piece it together with the info that's laid out and that's all you need to know, really (if anything, the more you think about it, the more questions you'll need answered to explain how it would have worked, so best to just not do that).

As for the POV element, like I said it works really well. I've read a few tweets suggesting that it's yet another movie that doesn't need to be shot this way, but not only does Night justify it several times (the girl is making a documentary about her estranged family, and also enjoys filming others but can't stand to look at herself), he also utilizes it better than most. So even if some of it IS a bit wonky (the chase under the porch, for example - why wouldn't they drop the camera?) he gets a lot more right than wrong, and I've always said that you just have to meet the audience halfway on these things. NONE of them hold up to total scrutiny, but so many don't even get the basics right that it's just relieving to see one that does (and then some). And even better, he actively refuses to do any of the usual shit until the very end where he kinda has no choice. The girl, being an astute filmmaker and documentarian, refuses to let the brother set a camera up to see what happens when they're not around - i.e. the thing that makes up the bulk of every Paranormal Activity movie. Likewise, and correct me if I forgot one, but I don't think there's a single moment in the movie until the big climax where a camera is dropped in such a particular way that allows it to see all of the subsequent action perfectly, another hallmark/annoyance of these movies.

I suspect it'll play even better to kids. The boy of the sibling pair is kind of annoying; the actor is good (and I appreciated that the two of them got along for the most part - it's not some bullshit where they hate each other but come together over their shared terror), but for whatever reason his main character trait is that he fancies himself a freestyle rapper. He's proud of his 347 Youtube hits for one of his videos, compares himself to Tyler, The Creator (!), and raps at least three times in the movie, including one over the end credits. He also has a bizarre thing where instead of saying "Ho" he will say female singers? So when he's freaking out he'll yell "Shania Twain!" or something? I didn't get it, and it was hardly my favorite part of the movie - but I'm sure 12 year old boys will find it funny enough, and the movie is definitely harmless enough with its PG-13 elements (Nana's old lady butt and one F bomb) that you can be comfortable showing it to your budding horror fan children. Devin compared it to Goosebumps, and that's apt - maybe a bit harsher, but definitely along those lines of campfire story horror, preying on basic fears (being away from home, strangers, etc). And unlike adults, they won't have that knee-jerk reaction to M Night Shyamalan's name, with some unfounded bias clouding the experience.

Now, if this is a hit, can we get that 2nd Night Chronicles movie? Been waiting five goddamn years!

What say you?


The HMAD Book Needs Your Vote!

Hello! I am alive! Been a long time since I posted anything directly to you guys, but I wanted to alert you to the new poll on the top of the page (yes, I finally took down the NOES 5 screening ad, a year+ after it happened). The HMAD book is getting very close to completion (minus some art and a foreward by a very cool writer, I COULD release it now - that's how close!) and while we are definitely releasing it e-style (your Kindles and what not), I would like to get a rough idea of how many people would buy the (more expensive!) physical version if they could. Personally I think the book is suited better for paper anyway, but print is dead not feeling well these days, so it's a risky endeavor and it'd likely be out of my own pocket to get them made. However, if enough people would (seriously!) buy a physical copy if given the choice, maybe I can get someone else to foot that bill (i.e. the people who will be getting a lot of the money anyway). So please take a second to answer if the book is something you're interested in; the e-book will only be 5 bucks but the physical one would probably be around $15 (it'll be 400 pages), so keep that in mind with your vote. Thank you!


Morituris: Legions of the Dead (2011)



If nothing else, the idea of combining Last House on the Left with Tombs of the Blind Dead is one of the nuttier "It's ______ meets ______!" combos I've come across in quite a long time, but ultimately I have to put Morituris in the "not for me" section of my mental video store. It's technically proficient, the actors are fine, it features some really nice (if a bit hard to make out due to the underlit photography) FX by none other than Sergio Stivaletti, so it's not a candidate for "Worst movie ever!" or anything like that. And - for what it's worth - the "twist" (which I'll spoil, by necessity) is well executed in that it's as big of a shock to us as the characters it's happening to, but it's also needlessly unpleasant to the nth degree and ultimately somewhat pointless. Some may love it for that very reason, but that's just not my bag, man.

Now, when I say "twist" I assume it's something people might not know going in, but with the "Banned in Italy!" blurb splashed on the Blu-ray cover and their admittedly Last House-ian story actually taken from a true life crime (known as the Circeo Massacre), I don't think they're exactly hiding the fact that our two female protagonists are about to have a very grim and unpleasant evening. But the film starts out like any number of slashers, with a carload of college-aged friends (three guys and the two girls they just met) heading out to a rave in the middle of the woods. You know something bad will happen to them, likely at the hands of whatever has been watching them once they stop for a break and a little "romance" (we see a red tinted POV accompanied by some metal clanking sounds), but the fact that their would-be new boyfriends suddenly turn on a dime and begin assaulting them is probably not what anyone would expect.

I mean it's really brutal; both of them are punched and kicked repeatedly before they are raped, and their total shock makes it all the worse (one of them even heartbreakingly pleads with the guy who isn't currently raping her to help, as if her attacker was acting alone). To the filmmaker's credit, the rape scenes aren't explicit, with the camera lingering more on reactions than, well, you know - but since the "Legions" have been established already (via the POV), it makes the scene feel endless. You know that at any moment a zombie gladiator could come lumbering through and inadvertently save the girls, but they're apparently OK with just standing there and watching, as their first attack comes long after the girls have been victimized and the guys are seemingly getting ready to kill them and leave their bodies in the middle of the woods.

On that note, even if I was fully satisfied with what happens next I'd still have issue with the movie taking forever to get to the damn title characters. Again, they're already there, it's not like they had to be resurrected first or whatever, so the fact that they're just standing around doing nothing is baffling to me. It's only an 83 minute movie with slow ass credits (and a horrible prologue where a little girl is nearly molested by her uncle before a zombie gladiator kills them both), so when it takes nearly an hour for the things to show up we're definitely in "too little too late" territory, even if the rapey stuff hadn't already put the movie at a disadvantage. Worse (spoilers), it's not that all five characters die that bummed me out - it's that they do so without a single moment of victory. Like, if you want to kill the girls off, fine - but let one of them triumph, even slightly, before that happens, so we're not just being assaulted by unpleasantness nonstop. Let one of them toss a rapist into the gladiator's path (the opposite happens, of course), or even subdue one of the things. Or let the guys get it worse than the girls, if nothing else - alas, this is not what the filmmakers wanted to do.

And again, that's their prerogative, but I've long past the point (roughly 13 years old) that I could find any entertainment value in seeing everyone die and zero victories, even temporarily. I like mean-spirited stuff like Silent Night Deadly Night, sure, but you can feel the filmmakers having fun making such a mockery out of a beloved holiday, and for every deaf priest dressed as Santa getting shot to death in front of children, there's a killer Santa letting a little girl live because she wasn't naughty nice. In this movie she'd be gutted and possibly raped, in either order. There needs to be a balance to secure that BC stamp of approval, is what I'm saying, and this movie doesn't have it. It just wants to let evil triumph at every turn, so much that the only surviving character is a friend of the guys who spends the whole movie torturing a woman in his apartment (including letting a mouse crawl up her vagina) waiting for them to show up. Maybe he'll star in the sequel.

Kind of curious how folks at large will like this. I mean, there have already been several Last House ripoffs (and two remakes, one official and one Chaos) over the past 40 years - is anyone really clamoring for another one, even with zombie gladiators thrown into the mix? And will they be OK with something so endlessly grim? I mean, I've certainly liked movies where everyone dies (the Texas Chainsaw prequel, for example), but that gave the girl a brief victory before offing her too - without that "win", will people be able to stomach this one? I kind of want to dare you to find out, but a dare is something fun and this is a movie with rape and hints of child molestation, so let's leave fun out. Instead, let's just say I've sufficiently warned you, and if you're still interested, have at it. Synapse's Blu-ray looks nice, for what it's worth, and it should be noted that it's uncut - apparently up to 18 minutes have been removed in some countries, and I kind of doubt it was taken from the endless car ride padding. The rape scene FEELS that long, but it's not - so I am guessing they have also excised some of Stivaletti's gore, which is one of the few things the movie had going for it.

What say you?


The Editor (2014)



A few years ago I had an idea for a giallo send-up, but never really developed it because I realized I hadn't seen as many films in the sub-genre as I wish I could say I had, and thus I felt under-qualified to joke about them, even lovingly. The team at Astron-6 either didn't have that hang-up (or, more likely, had just seen more of them), because The Editor is more or less in line with what I would have done, which is to make up a new giallo story (as opposed to directly parodying a particular film) but present it in a comical way that pays tribute while also taking the piss out of some of the sub-genre's traditions. The black gloves, the misogynist heroes, the nonsensical asides that don't add up... it's all here, and for the most part it works a lot better than I expected it to.

In fact, the only major issue is that the performances are all over the place, with some of the actors playing it straight (and thus making it funnier), while others are stopping just shy of actually winking at the camera. When the biggest offender is one of the writer/directors (Matthew Kennedy) it's hard to really say he's "doing it wrong", because it's kind of his call - but I much preferred Adam Brooks' (also writer/director) more subdued performance, as it felt more like something I would really see in one of these movies (ditto Udo Kier, who has a brief role as a doctor that could easily have been transplanted from a genuine entry). I can only assume they figured the joke would be TOO subtle unless some of the actors were letting you know that they were in on the joke (ditto for the dubbing; only a couple characters are dubbed, enough to enjoy the reference without it overpowering the movie), and they might be right.

Because it's actually a pretty good story! They smartly combine an older, standard murder mystery with a more modern (well, modern for the giallo heyday, meaning the 80s) reflexive concept, as our primary characters are the cast/crew of a genre film, a production that is getting quite chaotic as people keep dying. The producer vows to keep shooting at all costs, so maybe the killer is one of the actors, murdering co-stars to beef up his/her role? Or is it the title character, who is said to have spent time in an institution after cutting off some of his own fingers (and nearly killing a colleague) in a bizarre accident? I wouldn't say it's IMPOSSIBLE to figure it out, but it's actually fairly satisfying as a mystery, with the weirdo supernatural elements (such as the editor transporting into his Steenbeck) adding some of that Fulci flair (The Beyond is just as much an influence as Deep Red or whatever). At times, it's actually more successful than Berberian Sound Studio, which was the straight version of a similar story - not a bad feat for a "parody".

And that's the thing, it's more in line with Naked Gun or the recent They Came Together in that it's not doing any direct parodies of any particular film (i.e. the Hot Shots style) - it's just a funny version of the general idea of one. Sure, you might spot a direct reference to Murder Rock or even Dressed to Kill (!), but these are just quick plot points of little consequence - the overall concept and major scenes are wholly original, just "at home" within the sub-genre. It's a tough thing to pull off (and even harder to market - They Came Together was basically sent direct to video for this reason), and I think you genuinely have to love the movies to do it. Like a good roast, you can't just be mocking the roastee out of nowhere - it has to come from a place of real affection. Like, I could do something like this for slashers fairly well (well, if I had any skill as a screenwriter I mean), but if I did a haunted house version it'd just be me mercilessly mocking its tropes and saying "fuck you" to the basic idea of them. I think that's why the Epic Movie guys are so bad at what they do - they're just mocking whatever's popular, instead of taking on a type of movie they care about. You don't have to think the movies are infallible (because they're not), but you DO have to love them anyway, or else you'll end up with cynical crap.

Since the Astron-6 team was behind Manborg (albeit with the core members taking different roles), I was afraid that they'd use visual FX for the blood, since they seem to like that "intentionally fake" aesthetic and also because I know they don't work with very high budgets (a lot of indie producers I have talked to claim that they have to go digital with their blood because they don't have time/resources to do it on set, forced to get it done cheap/free in post production). But no! They spray gallons of the good stuff, and even have two kinds - a more realistic looking dark red, and a more pinkish one for the in-movie scenes, matching the "melted crayon" look of those older films. The digital photography betrays them, but otherwise they have done a pretty good job of matching the look of the films that influenced it - it's got the vivid colors, the zooms, the bold font for the credits (I particularly appreciated that touch), and the music - even some by Claudio Simonetti himself (sourced, I assume - I'm not enough of a connoisseur to know for sure).

As with Manborg (I still haven't seen Father's Day! I should fix that) the disc comes jam-packed with bonus features, including a nearly hour long documentary about its production. As you can expect, it wasn't the smoothest shoot, with the crew almost entirely running out of money with only 20% of its scenes shot, picture cars not working (you get to see Kennedy attempt to finish breaking off the muffler that was already hanging on the ground), and occasional other snafus, the sort of thing you'll never see on a studio Blu-ray. The commentary by Kennedy, Brooks, and co-writer/star Conor Sweeney is also pretty fun; they point out some of the references and other production snafus not covered in the making of, and heap praises on all of their crew (I also enjoyed the note that they actually had the money to pay someone to do one particular effect and thus demanded perfection). There are also a few deleted scenes of minor merit; I think they cut the best joke about the cop slapping the female characters around (it's something of a running gag), but the others were good calls to delete. The other bonus features are a bit too jokey for my tastes (like the poster artist having a sci-fi machine create the art for him), as the "no one is getting paid" gag wears a bit thin, but they're quirky and thus in line with the DIY feel of Astron's productions.

The Editor is for such a specific audience that I can't imagine it will be a big seller for Scream Factory right out of the gate, but I think this will continue to find fans for a long time. It's not perfect (it could be shorter for sure) and there will always be people thinking that they're mocking these movies without any love for them (something the making of should make clear isn't the case, with one of the directors arguing to shoot a scene a different way so that it feels more like The Beyond than CSI - you don't get THAT into it when you just want to make fun of something for the hell of it), but I like what they were going for, and appreciative of the parts that nailed it. The problem with a lot of these modern "love letter" movies is that they're not adding anything of value of their own, but that's not the case here. Astron-6 has created a giallo plot that I wish I could have seen done for real, and I just take solace knowing that when I laugh at it, it's intentional.

What say you?


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